Monthly archives "September 2009"

India shows the way

The return of the trees
In India, tree-planting has been taken to a whole new level. In August I mentioned the attempt to beat the world record by planting 600,000 trees in 24 hours. Well, they succeeded with flying colours. Since 2006, the Indian government has had a policy of guaranteeing employment for 100 days a year to members of families falling below the poverty line. This hasn’t usually been the case in practise, as the authorities responsible for implementing it have struggled with the logistics.

So, enter an innovative Indian civil servant. He co-ordinated the massive scheme, with each village council being set a target of planting saplings. By the end of the day, they were just short of a billion trees.

A billion trees, in one 24-hour period, and jobs for many thousands of Indians. While we hear of football fields being demolished every second in tropical forests to feed the meat and soya industries, or for meranti wood floorboards, how wonderful to hear of the reverse happening on such a grand scale.

The villagers also have to look after the trees. They will be paid for the next three years, on a sliding scale depending on the survival rates of the trees under their care.

Electric Cars
Electric Cars are making a re-emergence, years after the first electric initiatives were killed off. One of the larger obstacles has been how to charge them. Batteries that charge in ordinary wall sockets currently can take the entire night to charge, and have a limited range, reducing their flexibility. Personally, I don’t find the thought of 24 hours filling up somewhere along the N1 with nothing but the dodgy fast food chain for sustenance that exciting.

The alternative, electric cars that can charge much more quickly, require special infrastructure. The oil companies have a monopoly, with their fuel stations blanketing the cities and highways of the world, so it’s going to take something special to break that. Los Angeles, a car city if ever there was one, is making a start on changing that. A solar power company and a Dutch bank have teamed up to build 5 electric vehicle recharging stations from Los Angeles along Highway 101. Recharging will be absolutely free. At the moment limited to the Tesla sports vehicle, hopefully this will help kickstart this sort of much-needed infrastructure.

India commits to climate change legislation
The time for action on climate change is now. Unfortunately, our government hasn’t been making the right noises regarding any form of committment. It’s understandable that developing countries, who have seen developed countries benefit from years of thoughtless exploitation, don’t want to be treated unfairly, and commit to cuts that leave developed countries with a locked in advantage. But it’s past the time for games, for us and them thinking. India, which for years shared a similar position, yesterday committed to cuts in greenhouse gas emmissions, putting pressure on the number one offender, the US, to come up with something significant. The US, many of its media outlets and politicians funded by the oil companies, faces significant difficulties in getting cuts through. Let’s hope they do what’s needed.

And, while we’re on the topic of India, we’re offering a wide range of Fair Trade incense from India. Produced from wild plant matter, it is by default organic (although not certified). The packaging is from recycled paper, and of course contains absolutely no toxins or synthetics, no use of child labour, and no animal testing, none of which goes without saying in the murky world of commercial incense production. It’s also some of my favourite-smelling incense, subtle aromas rather than cloying or artificial-smelling.

We’re looking for a part-time administrator to work half-days from our office in Philippi. Full details are on our blog.

To order, head on over to

Have a great and safe long weekend,
the Ethical Co-op team

Administrator Vacancy

We’re looking for an administrator to assist with the following tasks, initially five half days a week at our offices in Philippi


  • debtors and creditors
  • customer invoicing
  • customer account queries
  • credit control
  • making internet payments to suppliers, members
  • capture bank account payments daily
  • liaise with the accountant regarding tax and other issues
  • administer petty cash and data capture

Customer Service

  • interacting with customers in a warm and professional manner, in particular:
  • timeously responding to customer emails
  • phoning new customers to assist them with initial orders and problems


  • general admin-related issues not specified here

The pay’s terrible, but you’ll be working with a passionate bunch of people in an open and transparent environment, making a substantial contribution doing something you love.

If that appeals, contact us for more information, or send your application to admin (AT) ethical (DOT) org (DOT) za as soon as possible.

Blood of the Earth


We’re being assisted by a group of Graduate School of Business MBA students, and they’re running a survey for us. It’ll just take a few minutes to answer, and all the information goes towards helping us offer you a better service. You can access the survey here.

The Blood of the Earth

A long time ago I was involved in an environmental group, and we were on our way to a conference. At the time, Shell were connected with the murder of the Ogoni Activist and author Ken Saro-Wiwa in Nigeria. Ogoniland was devastated by the discovery of oil, with the military moving in, and all the money being siphoned off to both Shell and the military government of the time. The people who’s land was being devastated got nothing but the effects of multiple oil spills and being forced from their land.

There was an international boycott against Shell. On the way to the conference, I was driving, and we needed to fill up. I pulled in at a Shell Garage and remember the gasps of horror from the others. We were in the red, and I had no idea where the next garage was, but after a brief argument, with my lame “but they’re all just as bad” being shouted down, we moved on.

In June this year, 13 years after the lawsuits began, Shell agreed to pay compensation of $15.5 million dollars for their role in the murder.

Unfortunately they are all about just as bad.

The international focus right now is on a case in Ecuador. Texaco, the oil company who were later bought out by Chevron, started operating the Lago Agrio oil field in northern Ecuador in the early 1960’s. The area suffered from serious damage, and the inhabitants have faced a huge increase in cancer rates as their water was contaminated with, amongst other things, carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons – the toxic legacy of oil.

The case began in 1993 when lawyers representing local inhabitants sued Texaco. Chevron for years fought to have the case heard in Ecuador rather than the US. Ecuador was run until 1979 by a military junta, and for most of the time since then has had a “business-friendly” government, with endemic corruption and a close relationship with the various multinationals in the country.

All that changed in 2007. A new, more people-friendly president, Rafael Correa, was elected in 2007. The government actually passed certain constitutional rights for flora and fauna last year. While the previous government had merely requested Chevron clean up a few waste pits, and then exempted them from any damages (a large part of the reason for Chevron wanting to hold the trial there), the new government is revisiting these old, cozy, arrangements, and Chevron is starting to sweat.

There’s a great human story there too. An oilworker, Pablo Fajardo, witnessing the devastation, tried a different tack. He got educated, got a law degree, and his very first legal case is against the fifth largest company in the world!

The case is long and complex, and Chevron may still get off legally. But a moral blow has been struck and again, something hidden has been brought out into the open. More of us are aware that every time we fill our car, every plastic bag we use, we’re giving our money to this industry.

Chevron are present in South Africa as the owners of Caltex.

Collection Point changes

There are numerous collection point changes. Superfoods, who were in Constantia, have moved to new premises in upper Newlands. Watson Road in Muizenberg is back again after the week’s break, and we have a new collection point in Durbanville. There are also some changes to the times – please check the details for your collection point on the site.

Have a great week,
the Ethical Co-op team

An empty pantry, dolphin slaughter and forgiveness

We’re open for orders again after last week’s unexpected week off. I don’t know about you, but my pantry, fridge and fruit bowl are looking a little bare, so I can’t wait for Thursday’s deliveries!

The nice thing about time passing and making no sales (yes, I always like to look on the bright side) is that our product range and stock levels are looking quite healthy. We have a few lines available that have been in short supply recently. Brown basmati rice makes a welcome return, as do pumpkin seeds, salted pistachios and quinoa, the fantastic high-protein grain.

The Dolphin Slaughter

Much as the seal slaughter in Namibia is attracting greater attention, increasing pressure and the chances of putting an end to it, the northern hemisphere autumn on September 1 has for decades seen the beginning of the dolphin slaughter in Taiji Cove in Japan. At least 400 000 dolphins have been killed in a 20-year period. They are slaughtered in the most horrific manner imaginable. Thanks mainly to the documentary film “The Cove” bringing it to greater attention, the media descended en masse to Taiji Cove this year. Until the documentary’s international success, most people in Japan had no idea that this happened in one of their national parks. Almost overnight, the annual event was catapulted into the spotlight and, as a result, this year there have to date been no dolphin killings. Shadows that have for years blighted the human family are coming out into the open as the world becomes lighter, and, thanks to this attention, progress is made.

Learning and Changing

Greater transparency is is one aspect of our society’s development. All the dirty little secrets are much harder to get away with, and the deals made behind closed doors don’t stay there very long.

The world is becoming our family in a more real sense as we get to see into their closets and backrooms. But a flipside of this openness is the need for understanding that people change. If a family member makes a mistake, we usually work to understand, to tackle the reasons behind the issue, to forgive and then move on. But in the public sphere we so often assume the worst, and never forgive. There’s many times good reason, as the full scale of what goes on behind closed does is revealed. But as the mistakes of others become more visible, we need to cultivate a sense of forgiveness, of not assuming the worst, of allowing and encouraging people to grow into their potential, even in the public eye.

The Obama administration in the US appointed a man with close ties to Monsanto to the key position of Secretary of Agriculture. It’s easy to assume the worst, that US policy will continue to be hopelessly corporate-friendly, at great cost to everyone’s health, and farmer’s viability.

But, with the spotlight on him, and people concerned, he’s been pleasantly surprising some with his support for local farming. Let’s hope it continues. Our US friends in particular need all the help they can get to heal their broken food system.

Collection Point Changes

There’re a few more changes around collection points this week. There’s a stand-in collection point in Marina de Gama, as the regular collection point at Watson Road in Muizenberg is not available this week. It’ll be back next week. The stand-in collection point is 101 Eastlake Drive, Uitsig Pennisula, Marina da Gama. Full details are on the site.

Also, there’s a new Noordhoek Collection Point opening this week, as the previous one has closed. It’s in 28 Amber Way, San Michel, Noordhoek. Again, full details on the site. Remember that you can change your default collection point by clicking on “Change Details” after placing your order.

To stock up that empty pantry, head on over to

Have a fantastic Spring week,
the Ethical Co-op team.